Is industry experience a key criteria when searching for your next Finance Professional?

This is something that we at Forbes Hunt deal with and hear daily. Line Managers are concerned about candidates having the industry experience relevant to their business as they feel this will help with the transition into the team and make the new person easier to train and develop. At Forbes, we understand that this can be the case but we see far more benefit from taking someone from a different industry and training them up to learn a new industry. It may be a little more labour intensive at the start but after the probation period you will have the results and will retain staff for far longer which helps with genuine succession planning.

There is a multitude of reasons why hiring a candidate without the industry knowledge is key to securing a candidate for the long term and not the short term. Candidates are often looking for work because they want change and more stimulation within their roles. Learning a new industry provides this stimulation and good candidates look for this challenge to broaden their horizons for the long term. Good candidates will also be less likely to leave in a short time period as they are looking to get satisfaction, and enjoy mastering a new industry before moving on.

We often find that people like to change industries where possible to get more job satisfaction especially when they are at the start of their careers as they can then specialise and follow their interests later down the track. Candidates who stay in the same industry see the same issues within different companies and in the end people get bored and move on – its human nature. All companies are different but industries and trends are common and this doesn’t provide that work place challenge the best candidates in the market are looking for.

There is a key theme here which must be acknowledged by all hiring managers. The difference between a good candidate and an average candidate. Good candidates are looking for that challenge and take industry change in their stride. They seek the stimulation that this brings and rise to that challenge. Average candidates are not always capable of making that change and prefer to stay siloed because it doesn’t challenge them and they enjoy the stability. Are these people the best for your business and do they really bring new ideas? We appreciate that this is not the case for all people who have stayed in a certain industry but it’s a common theme and food for thought.

From a recruitment point of view the whole industry relevant experience also limits the candidate pool massively when shortlisting. There have been so many roles I have recruited during my career where the client has missed the best talent in the market because they will only accept candidates within their industry. Why not bring in a candidate from a different industry with different experience that you can learn from. With a good switched on candidate you can easily teach them your industry and trends but at the same time they bring different experience and the business can learn and prosper from this. 

I will leave you with one case in point which was from my time recruiting in Perth. As with most companies in Perth is was a large successful mining company that were hiring for a CFO. They ended up taking a CFO with a retail background who had no prior experience in mining. When questioned by the market the MD came out and said why would I take someone with mining experience I have 30 years of it. He wanted someone with new ideas and a new way of looking at his business. At the time, the market was crashing and someone with a retail background knew how to squeeze every penny out of a business due to the tight nature of retail margins. He successfully took to the mining industry while at the same time leveraging his experience to help streamline and cost cut across the Mining company with great results.

When next hiring and speaking with a recruiter why not see what else is in the market outside of your industry. I think that most hiring managers would be surprised with the results and the ability of good people to learn quickly and bring new ideas which keeps the whole team stimulated and challenged. A workplace without continued development and training is a backwards environment which will always fail to hold on to great talent in a continuingly evolving and competitive market.

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